Say You Love Me Page 18

Reasonably, she said, "Please, you needn't change your plans just because-" "Not a'tall, dear girl," he interrupted. "I've been meaning to check out the new chef at the Albany anyway. And then I thought perhaps a visit to Vauxhall Gardens to top off the evening."

Even she had heard of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, her parents having mentioned it more than once in one light or another. By day, it was quite respectable, with its shaded lanes, vendors, and concerts. But at night, all those narrow lanes with benches were ideal for lovers, and any lady worth her salt wouldn't be caught there after hours. Which, of course, made it a perfect place for a gentleman to take his mistress, she supposed.

Derek had had other plans as well. It being too early yet for dinner, they visited several more shops, and the carriage became quite full of packages before they were through. Bonnets and shoes, parasols for summer, and he made certain to not forget more negligees, which had been an extremely embarrassing experience, since he wanted to pick each one himself.

Kelsey was feeling a bit exhausted by the time they reached the Albany, which turned out to be a hotel on Piccadilly. The dining room there was lovely, though, and she began to relax with her first glass of wine. The only problem was, Derek was recognized there. But he must have known he would be, because when he introduced her to the two gentlemen who came over, separately, to pay their respects, it was as the widow Langton.

And the second gentleman was surprised enough to say, "Not the Lady Langton who shot her husband?" Derek was forced to explain that she came from a different family altogether, and the lie sounded much better coming from him than from her. Of course, his not knowing it was a lie gave it credence.

She did ask toward the middle of what turned out to be an excellent dinner, "Why a widow?" "Well, widows tend to do as they please, don't you know, whereas young debutantes, which at the moment you certainly appear to be at first, second, and even third glance, require chaperonage. And I'm deuced if I make a good chaperone. Anyone who knows me would quite agree."

He grinned unrepentantly. "That wouldn't be because you do more seducing than chaperoning, would it?" she teased him. "But of course," he said, his eyes turning lambent witih sensuality.

But then they were interrupted by a pair he wasn't expecting.

As both Jeremy Malory and Percy Alden sat down at their table, uninvited, Derek demanded, "How the devil did you find me?"

It was Percy who answered as he avidly surveyed the food on their plates. "The youngun here had to deliver a note to your Uncle Anthony from his father. That being just down, the street, it was rather hard to miss seeing your carriage out front. By the by, how's the food? Good as they say?"

Derek looked disgruntled to say the least. "Haven't yo two something better to do this evening?" "Better than eating?" Percy seemed aghast.

Jeremy chuckled. "Might as well fetch your waiter ove cousin. You don't really want to deny us such lovely company for dinner, when you can have her to yourself at another time. Have a heart." "He's been pining for the sight of her all week," Percy added in what should have been a whisper but wasn't. "Might as well give in gracefully, old chap."

The table suddenly jumped as someone kicked someone else under it. With Percy and Jeremy now glaring at each other, it was a good guess who did the kicking.

Derek sighed. "If you're going to stay, behave." Kelsey had to bring a hand up to hide her smile. Jeremy was beaming now that he'd got his way, and he turned that stunning smile on her. She had forgotten how unbelievably handsome this young man was.

For several long moments, she was quite dazzled, staring at him, until he asked her, "So how's this clod been treating you, sweetheart?"

She blushed, and not just because he'd managed to mes- merize her, but because the subject he'd introduced was too personal by half.

But she replied neutrally, "He just today spent an amazing amount of money on me, refurbishing, or rather supplying me with a new wardrobe."

Jeremy dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "He'd have done that in any case, but how's he treating you? No need for rescuing?" he asked hopefully. "I'd be glad to, you know.”

The table jumped again. Kelsey couldn't help it, this time she laughed aloud, because it was Derek doing the kicking now. And Jeremy wasn't as circumspect as Percy. He howled, drawing dozens of eyes in their direction.

He also mumbled, "Hell's bells, a simple no would have sufficed."

Percy chuckled. "Gads, Jeremy, ain't you learned that if you're going to try to steal someone's lady, you shouldn't do it in front of him?"

Jeremy snorted. "I wouldn't steal from my own cousin. He knows I was just teasing. Don't you, Derek?" At Derek's stony look, the lad hooted, "I don't believe it! Derek jealous? But you never get jealous." "Better protect the other knee, lad," Percy warned, grinning.

Jeremy immediately scooted his chair back, nearly toppling it over, and scowling, said, "Bloody hell, I got the point the first time. I'll be wearing it for a week. No need to make it again.”

To that, Derek shook his head, muttering, "Incorrigible scarnp. As if Jeremy heard him and grinned. "Well, of course. Any other way is no fun a'tall."

KELSEY COULDN'T REMEMBER EVER LAUGHING SO much, or having so much fun, as she did that evening with Derek and his friends. The teasing and bantering among them had gone on mercilessly. Derek had aptly termed Jeremy an incorrigible scamp. But she could also tell how fond he was of his cousin, and vice versa.

Close familial ties were good. She felt them strongly herself, or she wouldn't be where she was now, Her sister' jean, was her responsibility. She loved Jean dearly. She loved her Aunt Elizabeth, too. Uncle Elliott-well, she'd lost what respect she had for him, but she would reserve further judgment until he proved he could be responsible again. And if he couldn't be, after what she had sacrificed, well, she just might take a leaf from her mother's book and find herself a pistol.

The laughter hadn't ended with dinner. Kelsey had inadvertently mentioned they were going to Vauxhall afterward, and both Jeremy and Percy swore upside and down that that was exactly where they'd intended on going, too. Which was patently untrue, of course. But Derek finally gave up the idea of trying to get rid of them.

And they had likely regretted their determination to tag along when they were both beset with shivers-though watching their antics to keep warm was hilarious. Derek had brought along a greatcoat, and Kelsey had her velvet mantle, which kept her warm enough with the addition of Derek's arm around her shoulder. But Jeremy and Percy were dressed for going from heated carriage to indoors and back, not for an outdoor excursion late of an evening in the winter.

It had been a very long but very nice day all the way around-and it wasn't over yet. When Derek took her home, he kissed her gently in the foyer while his driver brought in her parcels. He held her hand to walk her upstairs. In her bedroom, they found cheese and fruit with a bottle of wine on the table by her bed that Mrs. Whipple had left before she went home for the night. "Very thoughtful," Derek remarked, gazing at the arrange- ment.

"Yes, Mrs. Whipple is very competent in that way," Kelsey agreed. Alicia had also stoked the fire so the room was toasty warm.

"You're keeping her, then?" "Oh, yes. You've sampled one of her dinners. And she outdoes herself for breakfast, too, as I discovered this morning." . "I'll wait and reserve judgment on that tomorrow," he said in a deeper tone, glancing at her again.

Her own voice sounded thick as she asked, "You're staying-the entire night, then?" "Oh yes."

He put so much more meaning into those words than she had, Kelsey was starting to feel nervous, though not anywhere near as nervous as she had been the night before. In fact, she was looking forward to making love with Derek again, to experiencing the pleasure he'd given her.

Ever since he had put his arm around her in the gardens, she had started to feel a tingling inside. What had May said about it? That she'd know it if she desired a man, and she could thank her lucky stars if that man happened to be keeping her. Was it desire, then, when she felt all mushy when Derek gave her a certain look, his lips turned up just so? or when her pulse leapt at just the touch of his hand?

Her heart was pounding now in anticipation, but he made no immediate move toward her. He opened the bottle of wine and poured a bit in each of the two glasses. He picked up a stem of grapes and tore off one with his teeth, then glanced at her again as he slowly chewed.

How quickly she felt overly warm. He must have felt it too, because he shrugged out of his greatcoat and said, "Come, let me remove your wrap.”

She approached him hesitantly. His fingers were warm at her neck as he untied the silver cords of her mantle and, tossed it with his greatcoat over a nearby chair. His hands then slipped behind her neck, not to pull her closer, merely to massage the muscles there. Heavenly. Her sigh told him so.

She then felt the glass placed in her hand and looked down to see the wine. She gulped it down. He smiled. She was beginning to feel nervous again. "I really enjoyed this evening-the whole day, actually," she said. "Thank you." "No need for thanks, m'dear," he replied. "I enjoyed it, too."

Surprisingly, that was quite true. Derek was still very, very eager to make love to her again, he had been all day, and yet he had simply enjoyed her company, too. Which was.' unusual for him. Typically, he spent very little time with women with the exception of the bedroom, other than the female members of his large family, how much he had at first reit had also been surprising . and how right. He resented his friends' intrusion at the Albany the mark Jeremy had been when he'd accused Derek of being jealous- Seeing Kelsey dazzled by Jeremy had really infuriated him. But it hadn't lasted, and she shared her smiles with him, not with Jeremy. That more than anything had put his jealousy to rest.

Your friends are very amusing," she remarked. .”Obnocious more like it.”

“You did your share of laughing," She grinned, reminding him.

He shrugged. "So I did.” He picked up the stem of grapes again, tore another off, and leaned toward her to offer it with his mouth. She took it, blushing as she did. it was warm and sweet, like the wine. Some cheese?" he asked. "I'd rather have you kiss me. . She couldn't imagine where Her blush spread like wildfire at had althose words had come from, or the boldness allowed her to say them. But he was delighted apparently, if his expression was any indication. He set their glasses down as well as the grapes. "So much for savoring the moment , he said as he gathered her fully into his arms. "It was killing me anyway.

Killing him? But the thought didn't last any longer than the first touch of his lips on hers. Mush, pure mush inside. Her knees buckled, but she didn't need her legs for support, he was holding her so tightly. Her arms went about his neck anyway, because it felt good to hold him, too.

She was growing accustomed to kissing, but she had an excellent teacher in Derek. When she got up the nerve to make a foray with her tongue as he was doing, it produced a groan from him that was so highly gratifying it encouraged her to even more boldness.

The bed was conveniently next to them. He kneeled on it, laid her down so carefully, she barely noticed. But the loss of her gown was noticeable, then the warmth of his hands as they caressed her from neck to thigh. Her fingers circled the corded muscles on his arms, felt them ripple on his back. His skin was so smooth, but so unyielding.

His lips began to move on her, branding a heated trail across her cheek to her neck. His tongue flicked into her ear, and she trembled with pleasure. Down his lips moved, over her shoulder, along the side of her breast, under it, then up to capture the hard nub and draw it deeply into the heat of his mouth.

Sensation spiraled down to her belly, still farther to her loins, where it gathered and coiled into a nearly unbearable tension. The last of her inhibitions just disappeared. She arched toward his body with silent demands. He pulled her close, belly to belly, but he wouldn't relinquish her breast yet. Her fingers dug into his shoulders, leaving half moons without realizing it.

After what seemed an endless time, he let go of one nipple to capture the other, and even more heat shot down that invisible cord to her belly and loins. She was going up in smoke. He seemed an inferno himself. And then his hand slid between her legs and Kelsey cried out.

It was too much, too intense. But he was kissing her again, deeply, ravenously, his body settling over hers, slowly pressing her down. And then that hard, heated part of him pushing for entrance, finding it easily, sliding smoothly to her depths.

The tension was relieved immediately, pleasure coursing through her, shooting outward, reaching even her toes. And it was repeated with his second slow thrust, then his third, ,ntil a new tension began to build, more powerful, racing swiftly toward a pinnacle that suddenly burst on her in a wave of purest sensation, purest ecstasy that held her in its grip for long, blissful moments.

She was smiling when he looked down at her a while later.

She couldn't seem to help it. And he was grinning rather smugly himself - "Better this time?" he asked softly, already knowing the answer. "An understatement," she replied with a long, languorous sigh.

His grin got wider. "Yes, I must agree. And the nicest part is, we've only just begun."

She blinked. But he went on to prove that remark to her complete satisfaction.

ATER THAT WEEK, DEREK CAME BY ON THE SPUR OF THE moment to take Kelsey to the races with him. He had planned on going with Percy and Jeremy, but at the last moment he had told them that he'd meet them there.

Prev Next